In the summer of 1931, when I was six
and a half years old, we lived in the less salubrious end of the
Weequahic section of Newark. (At that age the 'half' is very important.
It gives you seniority over those who are even slightly younger.)
School was out for the summer, and we boys played in the streets.
The girls played indoors, or in the yards. There were lots of boys
in the neighborhood. There was no such thing as day care. Most of
our mothers were at home.
We played all sorts of games---ring-a-levio, stickball, roller-skate
hockey, football. One of our concerns while playing in the street
was to avoid the mounds of horse manure. The street was liberally
sprinkled with the stuff because many horse-drawn wagons came through
almost every day. Hucksters selling fruit and vegetables, sellers
of ice, deliverers of milk, rag collectors, small hand-cranked carousels---all
operated with horse-drawn wagons. And the horses operated with oats.
One hot afternoon we heard a buzzing sound overhead. As it slowly
came closer, we saw a huge silver cigar-shaped object in the sky.
It was about a city block in length. Beneath the cigar shape there
was a cabin with windows, and four engines with propellers spinning.
The airship was low enough so that we could see crewmen, dressed
in white, waving and calling out to us. It was the U.S. Navy's dirigible,
the USS Los Angeles. It passed over and continued heading south,
to the Naval Air Station at Lakehurst, in southern New Jersey.
Nearly six years later, in May of 1937, my family had moved. We
were living in a more upscale part of the Weequahic section. Again,
a bunch of us were playing on the street. We saw a large silver
object in the sky. It was higher, and it was different. The tail
vanes had swastikas painted on them. It was the Hindenberg, flying
over our ninety-odd percent Jewish neighborhood. They were very
high. So all we could do was shake our fists and curse at them.
Imagine our shock and surprise when, a few hours later, we heard
that the Hindenberg had crashed and burned at Lakehurst. We felt